Key IRS official retires after controversy
September 23rd, 2013
03:29 PM ET
5 years ago

Key IRS official retires after controversy

Washington (CNN) - The woman who first confirmed the Internal Revenue Service had unfairly targeted certain political groups is retiring, the IRS said in a statement Monday.

Lois Lerner, director of tax exempt organizations for the IRS, was placed on administrative leave in May, just weeks after she admitted the IRS was applying extra scrutiny to certain groups between 2010 and 2012.

Her statements were followed by an audit with similar findings by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

"We can confirm today that Lois Lerner has retired," the IRS said in a statement. "Under federal privacy rules, the IRS cannot comment further on individual employee matters."

Lerner drew fierce criticism from Republicans shortly after she admitted at an American Bar Association conference and later in a phone conference with reporters that the IRS had focused on groups with the names "tea party" and "patriot" in their titles. Over the summer, however, more investigations revealed that the IRS had also looked closely at groups that used the word "progressive."

She appeared before the House Oversight Committee in May and stated she had not broken any laws or agency regulations. She then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to answer questions. However, she could still be called back to testify.

It was one of several congressional hearings held this past summer over the IRS controversy.

Her retirement came Monday as an accountability review board–which was created by IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel to investigate the issue–had completed its work and reached out to Lerner's attorney to notify her they would be recommending her removal, according to Rep. Sander Levin, top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

The same review did not find any political bias or willful misconduct.

Levin argued the latest review disproves Republican claims of outside influence to target groups based on political ideology.

“The basic overreaching premise of the Republicans that the IRS had an ‘enemies list’ and was being influenced from the outside has been proven wrong again, as it has again and again,” Levin said.

CNN requested a response from Lerner's attorney, but has not yet received one.

House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa said Lerner's departure "does not alter" his committee's "interest in understanding why applicants for tax exempt status were targeted and inappropriately treated because of their political beliefs."

"We still don't know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress," he said in a statement, adding the committee is still interested in hearing her testimony.

- CNN's Ashley Killough and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.

Filed under: IRS
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. S.B. Stein

    I think that there are people out there trying to take advantage of the changes in the law based on the supreme court ruling that allowed unlimited money into politics. People will say lots of things to get away with something. This just happens to another example. Was it only so called conservative groups? I don't think so because there were other reports of other groups under scrutiny. I don't see why they are all upset. It is the job of the IRS to make sure that people conform to the tax laws.

    September 23, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  2. BillyBob

    Retires with a cushy $140,000 pension thanks to the taxpayers she screwed.

    September 23, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  3. Owl Creek Observer

    Another loyal soldier of the DNC gets thrown under the bus. Good riddance.

    September 23, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  4. Silky

    The IRS is full of controversial figures, also full of excellent people.

    September 23, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  5. gac1982

    Nice that we have the IRS' assurances that there was no "political bias or willful misconduct".

    September 23, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. sly

    This lady appears to be a hero, going after the tax deadbeats trying to claim 'non-profit' when they rake in millions from wealthy fat cats (who are simply laundering their money to avoid taxes like Mitt Romney).

    I encourage our IRS to continue their brave fight againest tax cheats. We ARE trying to balance our budget and go after rich tax cheats, right?

    September 23, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    – The woman who first confirmed the Internal Revenue Service had unfairly targeted certain political groups is retiring,--------------------------------------------------
    The first sentence of this so-called article is a crock as ANY group that applied for tax-exempt status yet whose name implied a poltical affiliation was closely looked at to ensure that they were in fact politically neutral, a prerequisite of their application.

    September 23, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. rs


    This woman needs to be investiagted and prosecuted for breaking laws. Of course, the Obama adminstration will not enforce the laws against somebody doing their bidding and attacking Obama's political opponents. The whole IRS scandal is the biggest case of voter suppression this country has ever seen. Two national election cycles had Obama opponents essentially silenced by the IRS. This woman and others needs to do hard time in a federal pen.
    Earth to Donna- please explain what laws exactly were broken. The idiotic TEA Parties GOT theor 501 (c) 4 Social welfare organization status (that's the real joke!). Meanwhile, you do know that the IRS has nothing to do with voters or voting. It's just the GOP attacking the voting rights of millions.

    September 23, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. Corrupt Obama

    I would say unbelievable, but since the US became a Banana Republic in January 2009, it's not.

    September 23, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  10. ivo

    The land of No Accountability for all.

    September 23, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  11. Chad

    Did you read the whole thing, again, it's the congress that was up to looking into this, trying to place blame on someone and made up bogus allegations of a "hit list". This time could of been better suited towards not letting the Government shut down. When will they stop playing games, acting like 4 year old children, and do what they were elected to do. I say get rid of both parties, fire all, and start with real elections, no money elections, and vote for the best qualified based on not having to pay for a vote. (i know, it will never happen, but one could dream)

    September 23, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. just saying

    Joe Plumber
    but the targeting of progressive groups got barely a casual mention in the "liberal media".

    that's because it simply never happened. you don't think if it was happening the liberal owned and run media in this country would have been all over it non-stop, front page, lead every newscast? please enough with the democrat lies mean't to hide the reality of this criminal behavior on the part of liberals and democrats at the irs.

    September 23, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. GreyBeard2

    We need to do away with all of these "non-profit" groups. It's ridiculous already.

    September 23, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  14. truth hurts but reality bites

    The only government money she should get in the future should be as part of her life long incarceration in federal custody for violating the civil rights of American citizens and their ability to participate in free elections. Eric Holder will protect her at all costs though. She be under "investigation" and will be well protected because if the truth gets out, as in Benghazi, then a lot of high level people are going to fall.

    September 23, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  15. The Real Tom Paine

    She was doing her job, a concept the GOP House would never understand.

    September 23, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  16. freedom

    What took so long?? She's a liar and guilty of breaking the law. She needs to be called back in to testify and expose who was behind this – we all know it's Obama.

    September 23, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. duane - st.pete FL

    very very un-American is what she is....and Obama turned a blind eye.

    September 23, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. CryBabies

    @Data Driven....Your bias and ignorance is blinding.

    September 23, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. ronnie nussbeck

    Off with her Head!!! Lerner is a criminal and the public demands her head on a Platter. Lerner's actions had a direct effect on the Presidential election and hurt many individuals and their familys. Take her out back and put her against the wall and have a firing squad do the deed.

    September 23, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  20. dc

    She can always get a job as The Wicked Witch Of The West!

    September 23, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  21. elliott carlin

    She should've been arrested.

    September 23, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. Bill Smells

    Lois Lerner should be sent to prison. She abused her position and should not have the citizens she betrayed pay for her retirement, unless it's behind bars. This woman is a disgrace.

    September 23, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  23. Bob

    Lerner needs to speak out and tell everyone who gave her marching orders. Someone did. She didn't make it up by herself. Only she knows and the person who told her to do it and that person is somewhere in the administration. If it smells like BS it's BS and it's been BS since day one. Why do 50% of American's think, like the commenter above, that it's okay, they were just doing their job? They unfairly targeted groups which opposed the administration's views to in order to mitigate conservative political momentum during election time. There are only so many rocks these people can hind under before they get bit by a snake.

    September 23, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Brian

    Typical of CNN to put this story under the heavily moderated "politracker". That said, she is the key to the entire investigation so keep the pressure on Issa. It is obvious that the IRS was used in a suppressive manner specifically targeting conservative groups. Also, with regards to the people claiming it wasn't based on ideology, that convenient lie has already been proven false.

    September 23, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. davecu

    Nice work if you can get it.
    Accountable to no one, 2 – 3 weeks paid vacation, and upon being ousted you get 3.5 times my annual wage as a pension.

    Let's see where she pops up next.

    September 23, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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